CD review

Sefrial – “Sefrial”

Sefrial – Sefrial

(Self-release. CD Review by Jon Turney)

Named after a John Zorn composition recorded by Medeski, Martin and Wood, Sefrial declare their influences up front. When they began entertaining audiences in Bristol five years ago, they focused on others’ music. Now they have a book of their own compositions, and a debut CD that convinces they have a sound all their own.

It’s a blend of alt-rock with jazz chops, with two saxophonists, Sophie Stockham on alto and Jake McMurchie on tenor, along with Greg Cordez on electric bass and Matt Brown on drums, who also takes care of most of the composing. The four played together in numerous other bands and are a cohesive unit here.

They’re joined by guitarist Joe Wilkins, whose sound stretches from Hank Marvin to Sonny Sharrock. He’s crucial to the new mix, as the first track Stone Eye makes clear. The opening melody is delivered with an emphatic twang and Wilkins’ on-the-edge-of-overdriven guitar spars with the saxes as all three players move between written and improvised passages.

The music is splendidly moody throughout, with spacey ruminations on Deep Field (think Hubble telescope) a slow-build chill on Gatekeeper and Juniper and the brooding soundscapes of Iris and Great Auk, pastoral but always with a dark undertow. That last sounds through-written, as does much of the album, but there is plenty of sax action from both players along the way as well as opportunities to hear Wilkins stretch out.

It’s a mix that appeals to venue crowds who are largely indifferent to genres or styes but just want something interesting to happen, preferably with a groove – and there are a whole set of them here, which Brown and Cordez keep up with quietly insistent precision. Sefrial make fascinating instrumental music that fans of Get the Blessing or Polar Bear might relish, and make an equally strong impression. The band can reliably perform the necessary trick of turning noisy punters in bars to silence because they are suddenly all listening intently. There are hooks, interesting textures, adroit changes of pace, and unflashily excellent playing from all five. This modest release – seven tracks in just under 40 minutes – is a first rate calling card for a band to look out for.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol. jonturney.co.uk.  Twitter: @jonWturney

LINK: Live dates

Sefrial is available digitally via Bandcamp, which is waiving its commission on 20 March, ensuring that all revenues pass directly to the artists. 

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